Wartime black markets, mysterious deaths and the victim of a government crackdown on swearing: These are just three stories of Reading pubs in a new book detailing more than 500 local Inns and breweries.

Abbot Cook to Zero Degrees: An A to Z of Reading’s Pubs and Breweries is the closest thing the town has to a complete history of its bars spanning hundreds of years.

The Reading Chronicle was given a sneak preview of the book and have listed ten of the most intriguing stories from Reading’s boozy past and present.

“It was written to give people pleasure and bring back memories,” said David Cliffe, co-author and chair of History of Reading Society, who has lived in Reading for more than 50 years.

“It was for many people a part of everyday life - going to the pub - though it’s not so much now. Lots of people are going to remember this and they’re going to look back with pleasure and nostalgia.”

He helped put together the book with John Dearing, an author of Reading history, who he fittingly met in the Cambridge Arms in the 80s, and Evelyn Williams, the Chair of the Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee.

Reading Chronicle: The authors of Abbot Cook to Zero Degrees: An A to Z of Reading’s Pubs and Breweries The authors of Abbot Cook to Zero Degrees: An A to Z of Reading’s Pubs and Breweries

Here’s just a few of the fascinating facts that the trio have collected from records, interviews and more.

1. Ale House, Broad Street

Built in the 19th century, rumours circled the pub that its flooring came from London Zoo, and that you could see the prints of animal hooves in it.

Perhaps a more likely story is that of the Lemonade Man who, in the 1950s, was known for drinking eight pints of the sparkling juice a session.

That was until during a showing of Jack the Ripper on the Ale House’s TV, when he let out a scream that made every other punter spill his drink.

“The Lemonade Man was never seen again,” an interviewee told the authors.

2. Allied Arms, St Mary’s Butts

The pub was later frequented by people working on the construction of the M4, during which time “One landlord reportedly caused a riot by deciding to call time two minutes early with the unhappy barman detailed to convey the message being grabbed by the neck and suffering near-asphyxiation.”

3. The Angel, Broad Street

In the Mid-20th century, the pub served a drink named the 7X Stout, “a beer so potent that it was rationed by management.”

Colourful tiles depicting sporting scenes such as boating and cricket are now in the Reading Museum, designed by ceramic artist William Rowe.

4. Barlow Bow, London Street

During World War One, proprietor James Wyeth was fined £3 (now roughly equivalent to £300) for allowing drinking to take place after 9pm in contravention of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1914.

At Reading Borough Police Court in June 1915, the two customers involved were fined 50p or seven days behind bars for consuming beer after hours.

5. The Bear, Bridge Street

In 1588, the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux bought 15 pints of white wine during his stay in Reading.

During a plague outbreak in 1625, the Law Courts were evacuated to Reading and its judges lodged at The Bear.

In 1784, Governor Joseph Wall was arrested for murdering one of his troops by flogging in what is now Senegal and held at The Bear Inn, where he escaped through a window and evaded justice for 18 years.

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6. Cambridge Arms, Southampton Street

While food was rationed during World War Two, the Cambridge Arms was reportedly the scene of illicit meat sales. A threatened raid by the Government saw all the meat hidden in a coal hole.

Southampton Street residents might remember its quiz teams were twice winners of the Morland Original Bitter League and the pubs tradition of spilling out into the middle of the street on New Year’s Eve to sing ‘Auld lang syne’.

7. Cardinals Hat, Minister Street

Before it was demolished in 1753, Reading’s only protestant martyr was arrested here under Mary I in 1556.

The book also reads: “In 1963 when the authorities were having a crackdown on swearing, a Joseph Jones was accused of swearing ’40 oathes most grievously and fearfully’.

8. Catherine Wheel, Friar Street

“One Saturday in May 1852, when Mrs Complin was in charge, ‘an inquisitive cow entered the Wheel Inn in Friar Street and contemplated a seat at the bar, but was politely informed she was lacking those distinguishing qualities by which judicial honors are secured, and on the door being closed coolly and complacently walked away.”

9. Caversham Bridge Hotel, Caversham Road

In 1864, the hotel was the scene of an inquest into death of Emma Legge and her three children, who travelled to Reading from Tunbridge Well and were found drowned in the Thames.

10. Cross Keys, Gun Street

The book describes how during the 1970s, the landlord told a customer he was going to South Wales on holiday.

The customer happened to be driving down the A4 a couple of days later and stopped at one of the inns, where he was surprised to find the landlord playing darts – having got no further on his journey.

“On another occasion a passer-by is said to have been nearly hit by a chair projected through a window – he grabbed it and threw it back by way of another window.”

Read more: Red Lion pub building demolished

Abbot Cook to Zero Degrees: An A to Z of Reading’s Pubs and Breweries is on sale for £12 and is available from Reading Museum Shop and Fourbears Books in Prospect Street, Caversham.

There will also be copies for sale at the October and November meetings of the of History of Reading Society, in the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square at 7.30pm.

The October meeting takes place on the 20th and admission is £2.